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Decapitated French king Louis 16: Probably the best king the French failed to value

Talleyrand said during the revolution that culminated in a period of utter Terror: “The French had no idea that in the Regency, in their long history, they never had it so well and lived that well” 

Louis 16 succeeded to his infamous grandfather Louis 15. Louis 16 is another case of orphaned kid: his mother died when he was 10 and his elder brother died at the age 14.

During his upbringing, he was not taken care of and mostly ignored by his grandfather, his aunts and his sisters. They all considered that his elder bother and even his 2 younger brothers to be far more brilliant and capable for ruling.

The British David Hume esteemed greatly the precocious intelligence of this future king when he saw him as kid. Ben Franklin would describe Louis 16 kindness as “His eyes expressed the milk of human tenderness.

When Louis 15 died, in the most horrible of deaths by measles, Paris celebrated and all joints opened their doors for this happy great news. As they celebrated when Louis 14 died. Two successive rules of lapidating the treasury and engaging in frequent wars had exhausted the French citizens.

Louis 15 was the epitome in ineptitude. He reigned for 59 years, the longest of any monarch in history, and he spent his life fucking little girls of less than 14 years old that the various noble and immoral classes and institutions offered to him in order to keep him busy.

The girls stayed prisoners until they gave birth and were sold at high prices for noblemen.

Louis 15 lost the French colonies in India and Canada to England and signed the humiliating treaty to end the 7-year war with terms that weakened the French navy to its minimum and other trade imbalances.

Louis 15 is famous for instituting the “Black cabinet“, the secret service agency or “”Secret du Roi” that was located in Versailles close to his bedroom apartment. This agency was constituted of 32 members and was headed successively by Prince Conti, Jean-Pierre Tercier and Marshal de Broglie.

This secret service agency figured out ways to tacitly ship weapons to the new American insurgents.

This secret agency ran havoc in Europe by controlling, managing and creating events, scandals and subversive situations.

This most inept king stank awfully for 10 days and only his 3 sisters were permitted to care for his decaying body. The body was placed in a double lead box containing chaux to prevent the nauseous smell from emanating. The convoy avoided crossing Paris and was buried silently.

Prime minister Choiseul ruled unperturbed for 12 years. Russia Catherine II referred to him as Ëurope coachman” and the Queen of Austria adulated him for arranging the marriage of her daughter Marie-Antoinette to the French Dauphin, in direct line for succession.

This astute and dynamic minister wrote about his monarch Louis 15:

“His was the most inept of a person. A soulless and without spirit man. He loved making harm as little kids love to make animals suffer. He lacked any kinds of vigor to make decisions and his vanity was incomparable. He knew he had no potential for anything and totally inconsequential and let his ministers and sweethearts rule the kingdom.

Louis 15 believed that his amorous activities solidified his authority. He believed that everyone must obey his current sweetheart and mistress because she was honoured by his intimacy…”and on and on

Louis 16 was officially sacred absolute monarch in June 1775 at Reims. He went through the traditional motion of touching 2,400 patients, a touch that should heal many of the sick persons.

His first decision was to lock up the latest mistress of Louis 15, Madame du Barry, in a monastery. She was later beheaded by the revolutionaries in 1792.

Once, the people in Paris threw a lavish fiesta and 136 persons died. Louis 16, still a Dauphin (first in line for succession) refused to receive his allotted salary until all the bereaved families got their compensation.

Louis 16 was expert in drawing maps and had passion for geography and marine activities like building ships and constructing ports. He was also expert in fabricating locks and keys.

He could go hunting for 8 hours straight and kept detailed diaries of his daily activities and expenses.

Louis 16 was a rotund colossus with blue eyes and jovial face, though he was endemically a melancholic person and faithful to his wife. Sex was not a pleasurable or exciting activity for this hard working king who read abundantly books and all state reports and who enjoyed eating.

He restituted the rights of the Huguenots (French protestants) that Louis 14 had revoked in the edit of Nantes, a century ago.

He rebuilt the French navy to become at par with the British navy and dispatched two military campaigns to America to support the insurgents, which culminated in the surrender of the British troops in Yorktown.

He was the first and only monarch who recognized the independence of the USA even before the battle of Yorktown in 1778.

Beaumarchais, the author of the famous play “The Barber of Seville“, was the main agent who exported through a fictitious company all the necessary military equipment and everything else to the American insurgents.

The first French secret agent to contact the insurgents in Philadelphia was Chevalier de Bonvouloir. He met the 5 leading  insurgents, including Ben Franklin, Francis Daymon and John Jay in Carpenter’s Hall and sent coded letters to the French ambassador in London who dispatched them to Vergenne, the French foreign affairs minister.

Chevalier de Bonvouloir was a crippled short man. His parents sent him to the Antilles early on in order to safeguard the status of the family from a handicapped unwanted child.

The Congress sent Silas Deane as its clandestine representative to France in order to enrol volunteers and de La Fayette got in contact with him before his first trip to America.

This massive aid to the American insurgents and the reconstitution of the navy exhausted the treasury and a few ministers of finance were sacked and replaced in order to establish an equilibrium in the budget.

In one harsh winter season, Louis 16 ordered distributing supplies to the poorer classes in France.

In 1786, accompanied by the navy and war ministers, Louis 16 inaugurated the construction of the grandiose artificial port in Cherbourg.

Louis 16 could easily retain his power as an absolute monarch if he wished to: He had the means militarily, institutionally and was loved by the people outside Paris. He preferred not to shed blood and agreed on a Constitutional monarchy as stated by the national Assembly.

When he was in Versailles, guarded by loyal Belgium troops, he opted to spare the blood of his citizens, during the women march that was organized by Chaderlos de Laclos, and followed La Fayette to Paris where he became practically hostage to the revolutionaries.

As Louis 16 escaped Paris in the night, La Fayette got in contact with Thomas Paine, the American revolutionary who settled in Paris and was against any kinds of monarchy and who wrote the pamphlet “Common Sense” that triggered the Boston Tea Party insurgency, said “This should be a great new to you. You won’t have to care for this Royal family and its security. You have a wonderful opportunity to declare the “Republic

The monarch was caught in Varenne,  and he could easily continue his flight in crossing the bridge if he allowed the military to open the way by opening fire on the crowd. La Fayette had to come and secure the return to Paris for his monarch.

In many critical occasions, the king ordered his guards not to fire on the mob. In one incident, 500 Swiss guards were killed  and massacred by the mob because he ordered them not to defend themselves.

Captain Napoleon Bonaparte was watching this bloody scene from a window. At the first opportunity, Bonaparte fired his canons on the mob and became one of the 3 consuls, before snatching power and becoming an absolute dictator for 16 years.

Thomas Paine convinced the French Assembly to vote for the exile of the king to New Orleans, in the French Louisiana Territory before napoleon sold it in 1803.  Again, the infamous and bloody Marat (who will be assassinated by a woman royalist in his bath) turned the table sover and the Assembly voted for the decapitation of the monarch

The famous Alexis de Tocqueville, who analyzed the American political system in the 19th century, also analyzed the French system during the Regency (or Louis 16 period) concluded that the administrative institutions were so well running smoothly that for 50 years after the revolution not much has been reformed or altered to the institutions.

Louis 16 was the ideal monarch to submit to the Constitutional monarchy system, a system he openly and publicly agreed to and promised to defend. The French in Paris begged to differ and never had confidence in this monarch.

Three and a half years ago, the world was riveted by massive crowds of youths mobilizing in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to demand an end to Egypt’s dreary police state. We watched transfixed as a movement first ignited in Tunisia spread from one part of Egypt to another, and then from country to country across the region.

Before it was over, 4 presidents-for-life had been toppled and the region’s remaining dictators were unsettled.

Some 42 months later, in most of the Middle East and North Africa, the bright hopes for more personal liberties and an end to political and economic stagnation championed by those young people have been dashed.

Instead, some Arab countries have seen counterrevolutions, while others are engulfed in internecine conflicts and civil wars, creating Mad Max-like scenes of postapocalyptic horror.

But keep one thing in mind: The rebellions of the last three years were led by Arab millennials, by young people who have decades left to come into their own. Don’t count them out yet.

Given the short span of time since Tahrir Square, it is far too soon to predict where these massive movements will end. During the “Prague Spring” of 1968,  a young dissident playwright, Vaclav Havel, took to the airwaves on Radio Free Czechoslovakia and made a name for himself as Soviet tanks approached. But then, after a Russian invasion crushed the uprising, Havel had to seek work in a brewery, forbidden to stage his plays.

That wasn’t the end of the story, however. Two decades later, after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Havel became the first president of the Czech Republic.

Or consider the French Revolution: Three and a half years after the storming of the Bastille, the country was facing a pro-royalist uprising in the Vendee, south of the Loire Valley, a conflict that ultimately left more than 100,000 (and possibly as many as 450,000) people dead.

And let’s remember that a decade passed between the Boston Tea Party and the American victory in the Revolutionary War.

There are, of course, plenty of reasons for pessimism in the medium-term in the Middle East. But when it comes to youth revolutions, it’s a pretty good bet that most of their truest accomplishments will come decades later.

The young Arabs who made the recent revolutions are, in fact, distinctive: substantially more urban, literate, media-savvy and wired than their parents and grandparents. They are also somewhat less religiously observant, though still deeply polarized between nationalists and devotees of political Islam.

And keep in mind that the median age of the 370 million Arabs on this planet is only 24, about half that of graying Japan or Germany. While India and Indonesia also have big youth populations, Arab youth suffer disproportionately from the low rates of investment in their countries and staggeringly high unemployment rates. They are primed for action.

Analysts have tended to focus on the politics of the Arab youth revolutions and so have missed the more important, longer-term story of a generational shift in values, attitudes and mobilizing tactics.

The youth movements were, in part, intended to provoke the holding of genuine, transparent elections, and yet the millennials were too young to stand for office when they happened. This ensured that actual politics would remain dominated by older Arab baby boomers, many of whom are far more interested in political Islam or praetorian authoritarianism.

The first wave of writing about the revolutions of 2011 discounted or ignored religion because the youth movements were predominantly secular and either liberal or leftist in approach. When those rebellions provoked elections in which Muslim fundamentalists did well, a second round of books lamented a supposed “Islamic Winter.”

Yet, in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood has been ousted (albeit through a reassertion of power by the military).

In Libya, Muslim fundamentalist candidates could not get a majority in parliament in 2012.

Even in Tunisia, where the religious right formed the first postrevolution government, it was able to rule only in coalition with secularists and leftists.

As they wait their time, many of the millennial activists who briefly turned the Arab world upside down and provoked so many changes are putting their energies into nongovernmental organizations, thousands of which have flowered, barely noticed. Others continue to coordinate with labor unions to promote the welfare of the working classes.

In this way, they are learning valuable organizational skills that — count on it — will one day be applied to politics.

Their dislike of nepotism, narrow cliques and ethnic or sectarian rule has already had a lasting effect on the politics of the Arab world.

And two or three decades from now, the twentysomethings of Tahrir Square and the Casbah in Tunis and Martyrs’ Square in Tripoli will, like the Havels of the Middle East, come to power as politicians.

We haven’t heard the last of the Middle East’s millennial generation.

Juan Cole is director of the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies at the University of Michigan and the author of “The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation is Changing the Middle East.” A longer version of this piece appears on tomdispatch.com.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

 


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